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Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Category Archives: P2V

Upgrading to a new PC in stages using VMware Converter

 

If like me you travel around a lot and are pretty busy finding the time to get a new laptop setup with all of the data and non-standard build software you require can be a time-consuming chore.

More often than not you will be upgrading to a new more powerful machine with larger disks (unless you are unlucky :)) rather than carrying around two laptops on a trip or risking going without a particular ready to go application why not consider P2V’ing your old laptop onto your new one?

I am doing just this at the moment, I got my new laptop before I had to head out for a couple of days, VMware Converter is a free download and it took me about 3hrs with a cross-over ethernet cable this evening to P2V my old Dell laptop into a virtual machine on my new HP one. and I can now transfer my data and re-install my own applications into the host OS at my leisure; as a side advantage I instantly get the benefits of a machine with a faster CPU and better screen resolution without having to mess around with the software build or “personalisation”.

VMware Player is also free and you can use a VM in full screen mode, Player even supports Unity mode – this could be a viable long-term solution if it weren’t for the licensing position of having to maintain 2 x OS licenses (guest and host).

Performance is also pretty good – my VM’d laptop gets a 2.9 performance score in Vista – with the video being the lowest score.

Before (physical Dell D620, 2GHz Dual Core Intel, 4Gb, 200Gb, c.3yrs old)

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After VM running under VMware Player on an HP EliteBook, 2.8GHz Dual Core Intel, 8Gb RAM, 250Gb HDD

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And, for comparison on the native hardware of the new HP Laptop

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Keep it in mind next time you switch…

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VMWare Server Performance – A Practical Example

 

The following screen dump is from an HP DL380G5 server that runs all the core infrastructure under VMWare Server (the free one) for a friend’s company which I admin sometimes.

It is housed in some co-lo space and runs the average range of Windows servers used by a small but global business, Exchange SQL, Windows 2003 Terminal Services.

As a result of some planned (but not very well communicated!) power maintenance the whole building lost power earlier today, when it was restored I grabbed the following screenshot as the 15 or so Virtual Machines automatically booted.

interesting to note that all the VM’s had been configured to auto-start with the guest OS, meaning there wasn’t any manual intervention required, even though it was a totally dirty shutdown for both the host and guest OS’es (No UPS, as the building and suite is supposed to have redundant power feeds to each rack – in this instance the planned maintenance was on the building wiring so required taking down all power feeds for a 5 yearly inspection..)

There are no startup delay settings  in the free version of VMWare Server so they all start at the same time, interesting to note the following points..

The blue line that makes a rapid drop is the pages/second counter, and the 2nd big drop (green) is the disk queue length. the hilighted (white) line is the overall %CPU time, note the sample frequency was 15 seconds on this perfmon.

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After it had settled down, I took the following screenshot, it hardly breaks a sweat during its working day. there are usually 10-15 concurrent users on this system from around the world (access provisioned via an SSL VPN device) and a pretty heavily used Exchange mail system.

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The box is an HP DL380 G5 with 2 x quad core CPUs (8 cores in total) and 16Gb of RAM, it has 8 x 146Gb 15k HDDs in a single RAID 5 set + hot-spare, it was purchased in early 2007 and cost c.£8,000 (UK Prices)

It runs Windows 2003 Enterprise Edition x64 edition with VMWare Server 1.0.2 (yes, its an old build.. but if it ain’t broke..) and they have purchased multiple w2k3 ent-edition licences to take advantage of the virtualisation use-rights to cover the installed virtual OS’es.

It’s been in-place for a year and hardly ever has to be touched, its rock-solidly available and the company have noticed several marked improvements since they P2V’d their old servers onto this platform, as follows;

  • No hardware failures – moving from lots of low-end servers (Dell) and desktops to a single box (10:1 consolidation)
  • The DL380 has good redundancy built in, but it’s also backed up with a h/w maintenence contract, and they also have a spare cold-standby server to resume service from backups if data is lost.
  • Less noise, the old servers were dotted around their old offices in corners, racks etc – this is the main thing they liked!
  • Simple access anywhere – using a Juniper SA2000 SSL VPN,  its easy to get secure access from anywhere
  • Less reliance on physical offices and cheap DSL-grade data communications, now the servers are hosted on the end of a reliable, data centre class network link with an SLA to back it up. if an individual office looses its ADSL connection, no real issue – people pick up their laptop(s) and work from home/starbucks etc.
  • Good comms are cheaper in data centres than in your branch offices (usually)

Hopefully this goes to show the free version of VMWare’s server products can work almost as well if budget is a big concern, ESX would definitely give some better features and make backup easier, they are considering upgrading and combining with something like Veeam Backup to handle failover/backup.

Support for Virtualized OS/Applications – an Open Debate..

 

Martin’s post here prompted me to blog something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

Virtualization projects and services are cool; we all understand the advantages in power/cooling and the flexibility it can bring to our infrastructures.

But what about support, if you are a service provider (internal or outsourcing) you normally need to be able to offer an end-end SLA on your services. typically this would be backed off against a vendor like Microsoft or Oracle via one of their premium support arrangements.

From what I see in the industry, with most software vendors especially Microsoft there is almost no way a service provider can underwrite an SLA as application/OS vendors give themselves significant scope to say “unsupported configuration” if you are running it under a hypervisor or other VM technology… Microsoft use the term commercially reasonable in their official policy – who decides what this is?

I would totally accept that a vendor would not guarantee performance under a hypervisor – that’s understandable and we have tools to analyse, monitor and improve (Virtual Centre, MOM, DRS, increase resources etc.). but too many vendors seem to use it as a universal “get out of jail free card”.

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Issues of applications with dependency on physical hardware aside (fax cards, realtime CPU, DSP, PCI cards etc.) In my entire career working with VM technology I’ve only ever seen one issue that could be directly attributed to being caused by virtualization – and to be fair that was really a VMTools issue; rather than VMWare itself.

Microsoft have an official list of their applications that are not supported here – why is this? speech server I could maybe understand as it would probably be timer/DSP sensitive – but the rest? Sharepoint? I know for a fact ISA does work under VMWare as I use it all the time.

Microsoft Virtual Server support policy http://support.microsoft.com/kb/897613

Support policy for Microsoft software running in non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software http://support.microsoft.com/kb/897615/

Exchange is specifically excluded (depending on how you read the articles)

· On the Exchange Server 2007 System requirements page it only mentioned Unified messaging as being unsupportable in a virtual environment http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa996719.aspx

· Yet on TechNet it is clear stated that “Neither Exchange 2007 nor Exchange 2007 SP1 is supported in production in a virtual environment”  http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb232170(EXCHG.80).aspx

Credit due to a colleague for pulling together the relevant Microsoft linkage

But I know it….

a) works fully – I do it all the time.

b) Lots of people are doing this in production with lots of users (many people at VMWorld US last year)

c) VMWare have a fully-supportable x64 hypervisor – It’s just MS that don’t

What is the industry going to do about this?, I asked this question of peers a lot at VMWorld and at BriForum; and to be honest everyone has the same concern but have a few different approaches;

Dont’ tell/ask – 99% of the time a tech support rep won’t know its running under VMWare/a.n.other hypervisor so why complicate matters by telling them – could of course back-fire on you!

Threaten – “If you won’t support under VMWare we’ll use one of your competitors applications”; however this only really works if you are the US govt. or Globocorp Inc. or operate in a very niche application market.

Mitigate – reflect this uncertainty in an SLA, best-endeavours etc. this would kill most virtualization efforts in their tracks for an enterprise customer.

The same support issue has been around for a long time; Citrix/Terminal Services, application packaging, automated installations, etc. are treated as “get out of jail free cards” by support organisations…

But whilst there are some technical constraints (usually only affecting badly written apps) with terminal services and packaging, virtualization changes the game and should make it simpler for a vendor to support as there is no complex runtime integration with a host OS + bolt-ons/hacks it’s just an emulated CPU/disk/RAM you can do whatever you like within it.

So – the open debate; what do you do? and how do you manage it?

Please comment…

P2V Backup & Disaster Recovery

 

There is a new site here (disclaimer: it does seem to be promoting a commercial service, but has some useful information that has been put into the public domain); describing some methods to roll your own P2V backup approach; I’ve not read in detail yet; but looks like Frane Borozan has solved some of the challenges I’ve encountered in the past automating the Free VMWare Convertor tool.

When I get some time I will revisit my build a better test lab series (and update it!) I hope to be able to integrate some of Frane’s ideas.

Thanks to Techhead for passing on the link; we worked together on the platform underlying the Build a better test lab series and he did a lot of work on the P2V and post-P2V automation tasks – he’s got a lot of handy scripts for doing this on an HP platform

Virtualized DR is going to be big this year; I have a long line of customers with this high on their list of priorities… Both for cross site 100% VMWare implementations and for the ability to backup/restore physical platforms to VMWare grid in a DR situation.

It just makes so much sense; no delay whilst racking & stacking recovery kit or problems restoring to different hardware etc. your admin’s can even do it from home – which can have some significant advantages in the event of a natural disaster like Katrina or floods like we had over the last couple of years in the UK

PlateSpin Forge is something we are seriously looking at as well as Symantec Backup Exec System Recovery Server Edition (who win a prize for extending the longest, most annoying product name! despite acquiring it from Veritas).

Will be an interesting year; I’m sure Sungard and all those recovery centre facilities will be moving to a grid/resource rental model rather than pure rack/floor space and retained hardware on-contract.